Biden’s real mistake in suspending military aid to Israel

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Unfortunately, President Joe Biden paused arms sales to Israel while campaigning in Wisconsin. I use that word “unfortunate,” not because I don’t understand why Biden did it, but because the move has allowed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to divert attention from the fact that the most dangerous leader threatening Israel today is not Biden, but Bibi.

Netanyahu’s policies have not and will not produce a sustainable victory in the Gaza Strip, cannot protect Israel against its greatest existential threat—Iran—and are endangering world Jewry and undermining the broader strategic needs and objectives. of the United States in the Middle East.

That is the real source of tension between Washington and Jerusalem today. This is not about Biden’s temporary suspension of sending Israel a new supply of 2,000-pound bombs and some other offensive weapons, something Biden has been warning Israel for months he would do if Israel tried to pulverize Rafah, as it did with Gaza City and Khan Younis, without evacuation of civilians.

It is a measure of the level of contempt with which the Netanyahu government views the Biden administration that Netanyahu’s national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, immediately posted on social platform X about Biden’s move: “Hamas [emoji from the heart] Biden.” This is how Bibi’s team treats the most pro-Israel president in American history, the man who rushed to save Israel from Hamas on October 7 and from Iran on April 13. He is just embarrassing.

Just do a simple thought experiment: Suppose Biden gave Israel all the 2,000-pound bombs it wanted. Israel devastated Rafah, where Hamas leaders are believed to be hiding, four battalions intact and many Israeli hostages. None of that would change the fact that Israel does not have a Palestinian or Arab partner to govern Gaza the next day in a way that ensures that a new Hamas will not rise from the ashes.

Netanyahu has managed to persuade and cajole the military leadership and people of Israel to fight this war in Gaza for over seven months without any plan on how to get out and consolidate whatever military victories have been achieved. This is a direct result of the fact that in December 2022, Netanyahu formed the most extreme far-right cabinet in Israel’s history to return to power and avoid his trial on corruption charges. The Jewish supremacists in his cabinet will not allow Netanyahu to form any partnership with the non-Hamas Palestinian Authority, which he rules in the West Bank, for fear that he could lead to a Palestinian state there and in Gaza.

Israel maintains precise operations in eastern Rafah @idfonlineIsrael maintains precise operations in eastern Rafah @idfonline

That means that the morning after any triumph over Hamas, Israel will abandon Gaza and have some kind of gang-ruled Somalia on its border, where Hamas will most likely re-emerge under new leadership – as it did after Israel murdered its older generation. of leaders – or Israel will find itself permanently occupying both Gaza and the West Bank, where it is already in charge. Altogether, some seven million Israeli Jews would permanently control some five million Palestinian Arabs in two occupied territories, which would be an excessive moral, economic and military effort that would delight Iran, because it would accelerate Israel’s descent into becoming a a global pariah.

While Biden officials continued to press Netanyahu on this, the response they kept getting was the geopolitical equivalent of “just shut up and haggle,” i.e., keep sending us weapons and using your credibility to defend us on the world stage, particularly in the United Nations. United. We will do what we want, according to Netanyahu’s political needs. To hell with Biden’s political needs and America’s geopolitical needs.

It is a serious mistake to underestimate the danger that the current Netanyahu government represents for Israel and its relationship with the United States and the world.

Amos Harel, a veteran military correspondent for Haaretz, on Friday quoted a senior Israeli military commander, who summed up the situation better than I could: “The best way to hurt Hamas now is by presenting an alternative government in Gaza. That is not happening because the prime minister doesn’t want it. Every week, senior defense officials meet with foreign diplomats and generals. The repeated question is: What the heck are you trying to accomplish now? “We don’t have a real answer for them.”

Look at what’s happening as a result, Harel added. The Israeli military has withdrawn so many troops from Gaza, except for the new units that now surround Rafah and control the central corridor that divides Gaza from north to south, that “Hamas is regaining government in Gaza by all means ,” Harel said. “Hamas’ efforts to restore governance also include resuming the activity of sharia courts, municipal services and sanitation departments in municipalities.”

If this is what winning in the areas Israel has “liberated” looks like, is it any wonder Biden is wary of Israel leveling another city in Gaza without a plan or a partner for what comes next?

That said, I thought it was a mistake for Biden to speak publicly for the first time about one of the most serious deviations in US foreign policy (halting the transfer of some 3,500 bombs to Israel) in an impromptu exchange with CNN. Erin Burnett at a campaign event.

It seemed that this was being done to satisfy the president’s anti-war leftist base, and Republicans and some American Jewish leaders immediately pounced on him for it. If the president of the United States is going to publicly discuss for the first time something as serious as even a limited delay in arms transfers to Israel, he must do so in a well-thought-out speech that puts all of this in context. for Americans at home, for Israelis, for friends of Israel, and for enemies of Israel.

Such a speech would begin by making clear that if the US-Israel alliance is under strain today, it is because Israel has become a radically unstable partner under Netanyahu. He made a failed judicial coup his top priority during his first year in office, without dealing with Iran or the Palestinians. That divided Israeli society and distracted its military, probably tempting Hamas to think the time was right for an attack.

US President Joe Biden, left, meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right. Miriam Alster/Pool via REUTERS /File photoUS President Joe Biden, left, meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right. Miriam Alster/Pool via Reuters/File photo

This crazy rightward shift in Israel, combined with a “can’t win” strategy in Gaza, combined with the fact that, as Harel wrote, “for almost a decade, Netanyahu intentionally wore down the public administration, weakened it and “He transferred the centers to the right.” of power from the guardians of the judiciary, treasury and defense systems to a small group of incompetent cronies – is harming not only the interests of Israel but also those of the United States.

For starters, America’s most advanced and vital military partner in the region is now stuck in Gaza, with no apparent way out, depleting US weapons stockpiles that Ukraine also needs. And an endless war in Gaza could also destabilize other US allies, particularly Jordan and Egypt.

Additionally, the United States is trying to forge a new security alliance with Saudi Arabia that would allow the Saudis to focus on what they want most right now – their economic development – ​​without having to fear an attack from Iran. To help sell that deal to the US Congress, the Saudis agreed to normalize diplomatic relations with Israel if Israel embarked on the path to a Palestinian state with a reformed Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Netanyahu rejects that condition and now the whole matter is up in the air.

Finally, as much damage as Hamas has done to Israel, Israel’s real existential threat comes from Iran and its network of allies: Hezbollah, the Houthis, Hamas, and the Shiite militias in Iraq. On April 13, the United States formed an alliance with moderate Arab states, Britain and France to virtually shoot down all 300 drones and missiles that Iran fired at Israel that night. The more Israel becomes bogged down in Gaza and civilian deaths continue, the more difficult it will be for moderate Arab states, particularly Jordan, to be seen as Israel’s defenders from Iran.

There is no doubt that Israel will be better off, the Palestinians will be better off and the Middle East will be better off if Hamas is totally defeated. And if Israel must go to Rafah to do that, so be it. Hamas invited this war. Many, many Palestinians in Gaza will feel liberated by their defeat, not just Israelis. But that will be if and only if Israel partners with non-Hamas Palestinians to build a better Gaza and create the possibility of a new dawn for Palestinians and Israelis. Biden is justified in using American influence to insist that Israel operate with that goal in mind, because Israel’s prime minister is not.